VEGETABLE crop rotations are worth every effort, writes TOM ATTWOOD. Not the most exciting subject some might argue but if you harness the principles of why you grow certain crops in a recommended pattern with each new season the results speak for themselves. It’s easy to become a little overwhelmed based on some of the more cumbersome and clunky gardening books and this needn’t be the case.

All you’re trying to do is avoid planting the same crop in the same piece of ground year after year. Many plants have specific pests and diseases whose damaging impact will be heightened if the chemicals that all plants produce are secreted into the soil and build up over time. For example, brassicas such as cabbages, sprouts, and kale (as I’m sure you’ve experienced) have a distinctive smell (exacerbated when they start to break down and rot). Insects such as cabbage white butterflies home in on these chemicals as do fungal pathogens in the soil. In an effectively planned vegetable garden the build of these chemical 'markers' is kept to an absolute minimum therefore reducing the build of disease.

In most rotation plans the typical and simplest arrangement is to have three distinct areas or beds where one specific group of crops can be planted one year and then moved onto the next bed in the second and so on meaning that it's three full seasons (or three years) before they go into the original bed you started them in. You may be thinking this all sounds too much like hard work and many years ago I too was of this mindset until I worked in a productive vegetable garden that supplied a large household and soon learned that unless you embraced these principles the cook of the house would reject anything that wasn’t in perfect condition; this is where effective use of a rotation plan pays dividends alongside a host of other methods, including the power of distraction, which is where companion planting comes into play.

Next week: companion planting